Does Religious Bullying Occur?

A commentary on Religious Bullying

The National Post recently had an article titled, Christian school expels student who posed with rainbow birthday cake outside class, which reported that Whitefield Academy in Louisville, Kentucky, a private school, revealed it would expel students for living a lifestyle that does not align with Christian beliefs, and apparently that is exactly what they did. This Kentucky Christian school expelled a student after officials found a picture of her posing with a rainbow birthday cake. In the photo, the student of the Academy wears a long-sleeve sweater, with a rainbow on it, and she is sitting in front of a rainbow-coloured cake. For those who may not know, the rainbow is associated with LGBTQ pride. The Academy sent an email to the family outlining that the offending student, their child, showed “a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy’s beliefs,” and the photo was the last straw in a series of “lifestyle violations.” Some Christian groups reject people who identify as LGBTQ. The mother of the student says that her daughter is not gay, not that it matters.

Rainbow flag  (Photo credit PEDRO ARMESTRE/AFP/GettyImages)

Stories like these infuriate me! Why? Because this student attending Whitefield Academy is a victim of bullying.  Legal Match defines bullying as “the use of intimidation to achieve a state of dominance over another person. Bullying can involve conduct such as, threats, force, coercion, aggressive or offensive behaviour.” The Kentucky student is being forced to change her ways, or risk being expelled from the school she chose to attend. That means the student was bullied! This is the use of coercion, or intimidation, so the school can achieve dominance over their students; to force students to comply with their belief system. That means they are bulling. Let’s call this what it is. This is religious bullying. The W. Y. Alice Chan website says “religious bullying occurs when a religious…person chooses to intentionally or unintentionally degrade another person emotionally, mentally, or physically based on: the bullied individual’s actual or perceived religious…identity, or the doctrines or practices of their belief.” In short, degrading another because someone’s religious beliefs do not align with theirs.

What is this type of behaviour really about? This is yet another story about intolerance, cold-heartedness, and exclusiveness of another.  American political activist, Rabbi Lerner, calls this ‘desanctification’, which is not being able to see the divine in the other. French philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called it “dehumanization,” which is not being able to see the humanity in the other.

Barbara Coloroso  is an international bestselling author and is an internationally recognized speaker and consultant on parenting, teaching, school discipline, positive school climate, bullying, cyber bullying, grieving, nonviolent conflict resolution and restorative justice. I’ve never had the honour of hearing her speak, but some of my colleagues have. In her book, The Bully, The Bullied, and the Bystander, she says,

 Bullying is not about anger, it’s about contempt, a powerful feeling of dislike toward somebody considered to be worthless, inferior, and undeserving of respect. Contempt comes with three apparent psychological advantages that allow kids [or adults] to harm others without feeling empathy, compassion or shame. These are: a sense of entitlement, that they have the right to hurt or control others, an intolerance towards difference, and a freedom to exclude, bar, isolate and segregate others.

I like the way Ms. Coloroso defines bullying, and it applies to this story. The private Christian school is showing a powerful dislike toward the LGBTQ community and this student because she is perceived as being connected to the community. The community seems to be “considered to be worthless, inferior, and undeserving of respect.” The school appears to think it has the right “to harm others without feeling empathy, compassion or shame.”  It appears the school has “a sense of entitlement, that they have the right to hurt or control others, an intolerance towards difference, and a freedom to exclude, bar, isolate and segregate others.”  By all definitions, the school is bullying. Just because someone has different beliefs, or disagrees with your beliefs, doesn’t make their victims any less human. Every human deserves respect, regardless of what they may believe.

In fact, this is the stand of the United Nations (UN). In the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it says in Article 1:

 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2 states,

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status…

As I said in my last post, there is a very simple solution to bullying, and that is the Golden Rule, which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Ironically, there are 6 scripture texts in Christian scripture that say this in one way or another. They are Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31, Matthew 22:39-40, Mark 12:31, Romans 13:8-9, and Galatians 5:24. In my view, the behaviour of the Academy is unchristian, and hypocritical, since Christians are supposed to emulate Jesus Christ. Jesus was one of the most tolerant, understanding and accepting people ever, as Christian scripture says Jesus ate with many tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15). Tax collectors in biblical times were Jews who worked for the hated Romans. They were seen as traitors who enriched themselves at the expense of their fellow Jews. So, for Jesus to eat with them was a big deal. If every person lived by this simple rule, bullying would stop. It would make for a better world.

A Senseless Tragedy Because of Bullying

A commentary on the absurdity of bullying

From: timeout.com

Most people that I know go into the new year with optimism, hoping that the commencement of a new year will bring a better year then the previous one. Perhaps they hope that there will be more cooperation between peoples and nations, that people are more tolerant and inclusive, and love for fellow human brothers and sisters becomes more prevalent. Or, as one New Year greeting says, “The approaching New Year brings hope to everyone for calmness, kindness and fulfillment of dreams.” I started 2020 with this hope and then I came across the Telegraph’s headline, PhD student took her own life after classmates mocked her for not being ‘posh enough’, and my hopes for 2020 were shattered.

The article reports that a 26-year-old attending the University of Kent’s School of Anthropology and Conservation in the city of Kent, England, was found deceased due to suicide. It seems this young student was vulnerable, as the third-year doctoral candidate struggled with anxiety, depression, and a low-self-esteem after allegedly being bullied because she was state-educated instead of privately schooled as her peers were. The post-graduate student also struggled with the “toxic” environment in the university laboratory, and according to her mother, was also struggling with her thesis.

What caused such a tragedy? The sad truth is the issue was the deceased anthropology student received a state education and the others received a private education. She ‘wasn’t posh enough’ her mother says. In other words, she wasn’t high-class or was considered inferior to her peers. Her mother reports that her daughter told her “about being mocked for her accent and because she’d never been sailing.”

My blood boils when I read a story like this. It brings me back to when I was in Grade 5 in the village I grew up in. In Grade Five, the farm boys bullied me because I lived in town where my dad ran a service station. The “farm boys” accused the town boys of being lazy, having no chores, and being weaklings.

The bottom line is a tragedy occurred for a ridiculous reason. This 26-year-old with the potential of changing the world for the better took her own life because her peers, who came from privilege, harassed her and saw her as inferior. I was bullied because my classmates  from a farming background saw themselves as superior because they did farm chores. The bullying that happened to me and to the anthropology student is absurd.

The rock band, Simple Plan, has a song titled, “Welcome to My Life,” that I believe relays what the 26-year-old in this story was likely feeling. If you haven’t heard the song, here it is.

Here are some of the song’s lyrics:

Do you want to be somebody else?
Are you sick of feeling so left out?
Are you desperate to find something more
Before your life is over

Are you stuck inside a world you hate?
Are you sick of everyone around?
With the big fake smiles and stupid lies
But deep inside you’re bleeding

No you don’t know what its like
When nothing feels alright
You don’t know what its like to be like me
To be hurt
To feel lost
To be left out in the dark
To be kicked when you’re down
To feel like you’ve been pushed around
To be on the edge of breaking down
And no one there to save you
No you don’t know what its like
Welcome to my life

This song, in my view, captures what a victim of a bully feels. Do you want to be somebody else? Yes. Are you sick of everyone around? Clearly, as that is why victims attempt suicide. No you don’t know what its like when nothing feels alright. You don’t know what its like to be like me. No one knows what it feels like to be a bully’s victim, unless they’ve been one. Only victims relate to these lyrics. To be hurt. To feel lost… I felt like this in Grade 5. I felt hurt. I felt lost. I felt left out. I felt rejected and unaccepted. Why? Because I lived in town and not a farm. The post-graduate student from Kent, England felt this way too—I would bet on it—because she was state-educated and not privately schooled; because she did not come from privilege, and now she is dead because of it. Shameful!

There is a very simple solution to bullying. It is called the Golden Rule, which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Or as the Author of “If Heaven had a Mailbox”, Jill Telford says, “Start each day asking, “How do I want others to feel?” Then act accordingly.” If every single person lived their life following this very simple rule, bullying would stop. Try it!

 

The Paradox of Our Age

A commentary on what life is really about.

The other day a post on Facebook caught my attention. The post was titled, “Something to Ponder,” and it shared an essay that was said to be written by George Carlin. What caught my attention was its powerful message. For those of you that don’t know who George Carlin is, he was an American stand-up comedian, actor, author, and social critic. Back in the 1970s, I had one of his records. He was a very funny man, and his routines usually criticized what was happening in society. Here is the essay.

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say, ‘I love you’ to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.

This is a message just as relevant today as when it was written. I wondered when it was written, so my research began. I discovered just how misleading things can be on social media, and the Internet in general. You always have to be careful and verify things. It turns out that this essay was not written by George Carlin.

In fact, this is some of what Mr. Carlin said about “The Paradox of Our Time.”

One of the more embarrassing items making the internet/e-mail rounds is a sappy load of shit called “The Paradox of Our Time.” The main problem I have with it is that as true as some of the expressed sentiments may be, who really gives a shit? Certainly not me.

the Dalai Lama

Who wrote it if George Carlin didn’t? Some have claimed it was written by Jeff Dickson in 1998, others say an unnamed Columbine High School student wrote it, and one website even listed the essay as anonymous. Many have claimed it was written by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and you can even order online a Cotton Canvas Scroll from Amazon giving credit to the Dalai Lama. It turns out that the actual author is a Dr. Bob Moorehead, a former pastor of Seattle’s Overlake Christian Church. The essay appeared in ‘Words Aptly Spoken,’ Dr. Moorehead’s 1995 collection of prayers, homilies, and monologues used in his sermons and radio broadcasts.

Who wrote this essay is not really the point; it’s the message that is. Dr. Moorehead’s essay reminds me of another story called, the businessman and the fisherman story. If you haven’t heard it, here it is.

 

The message of “The Paradox of Our Age” is to ‘spend time with your family, talk with your friends, and maybe drink a little wine.’ In other words, relationship. As the Paradox of Our Age says, “We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life.” How true that is! Really the essay is a commentary on life, and its message is: life is not really a life without love and relationships. But perhaps Leo Buscaglia, an American author and motivational speaker, said it best:

Love is life. And if you miss love, you miss life.

The Wall Street Journal article, Don’t Envy the Super-Rich, They Are Miserable, claims that:

According to an article in The Atlantic, “the respondents turn out to be a generally dissatisfied lot, whose money has contributed to deep anxieties involving love, work, and family. Indeed, they are frequently dissatisfied even with their sizable fortunes. Most of them still do not consider themselves financially secure; for that, they say, they would require on average one-quarter more wealth than they currently possess.”

You will find studies saying otherwise, so the verdict is out. I think having a bit more money would make me happier.  My dad always said, “I would never want to be rich, but I sure would like to live like a wealthy person.” In other words, he wanted to live a lifestyle of the rich, but never wanted all the troubles of being rich.

Forbes’ article, The Secret Of Happiness Revealed, says

“happiness comes from choosing to be happy with whatever you do, strengthening your closest relationships and taking care of yourself physically, financially and emotionally.” This was from a survey of Harvard’s class of 1980.  The article went on to say, “These revelations are in line with three earlier studies…”

The way I see it, life without love, no matter how much money you have, or how many material possessions you have, is an empty, meaningless one. Leonardo da Vinci, known for his Mona Lisa painting, said, “life without love, is no life at all.” I believe that to be true, and the reason there is so much unhappiness in North America is people are so focused on the ‘American Dream’ which claims success can be achieved by anyone—in the U.S. especially—by working hard and becoming successful.  Notice it says nothing about relationship. In Canada, the ‘American Dream’ really isn’t talked about.

Another Forbes’ article, Americans May be Rich, But They’re Not Happy, says the U.S. doesn’t even rank in the top 10 happiest countries, coming in 14th place out of the 155 nations polled in 2016. It seems to me the “American Dream” doesn’t bring that much happiness, or maybe only a small number of Americans achieve it. Norway was rated the happiest country. Canada at least came in 7th place.

So as the Forbes’ article says, and the message of the essay and story is, ‘relationships bring happiness.’

American comedian, Dov Davidoff, says, “Whoever said life without love isn’t worth living didn’t own an iPhone. These things are great.” Maybe that is the problem. Everyone today is so preoccupied with their smartphones, that they forget how to live life.

It All Makes Sense to Me Now

A commentary on the meaning of self love

I usually have no problems coming up with topics to blog about, but for this post, I struggled—and I don’t know why—to come up with a topic. That is why I have taken longer than usual to post again.

That all changed last week, as two things happened that profoundly affected me. The first was a short video, titled, What’s the Perfect Relationship, that appeared on my Facebook feed. This video caught my attention, so I watched it numerous times. Please view the video, maybe even more than once.

Watch Me:   What’s The Perfect Relationship

The video’s message is profound, yet simple. Its message is not even a new message to me as I have heard and read this message many times. Many people have said it, but I like the way the late Dr. Wayne W Dyer said it. “If you don’t love yourself, nobody else will. You can only learn to love others if you start loving yourself.”

After watching this video numerous times, I asked myself: Do I fully love myself?  If I am honest with myself, the answer is ‘NO’. I realized that I have never fully loved and accepted myself. Yes, I loved some parts of me, but I certainly didn’t love all aspects of myself. I was never completely happy with myself. I was often self-critical. I would think, my gut is too big, my hair is too grey, I should have been more assertive, and on and on. I have always lacked self-confidence, and if I fully loved myself, I would be confident. Furthermore, if I am critical of myself, then it makes it easy for me to be critical of others.

Then I asked myself: Have I believed the lies society and my culture have taught me, and if I am completely honest with myself, the answer is ‘YES’. The reality is, we compare ourselves to others, we judge, are judged, and we learn to judge ourselves.

Let’s look at two of those lies.

Looking young is better than looking older.

From: http://www.dazeddigital.com/

Let’s face it, we live—at least in North America—in a society that idolizes youth. We are told through advertising, that ‘we must look young’. That is why according to Marketwatch, the global anti-aging market is expected to exceed more than US$ 216 Billion by 2021. There is no shortage of anti-wrinkle creams, anti-aging supplements, and hair colouring products on the market. Then there are the anti-aging procedures; surgical procedures such as brow lifts, eye bag removal, fat transfer (also known as fat injections), facelifts, liposuction, neck lifts, tummy tucks, and so on (See procedures explained). There are also many nonsurgical procedures as well. Let’s be honest,  body shaming and fat shaming are a big problem in our societies. (see 14 Painful Examples Of Everyday Fat-Shaming). My point is, many or perhaps most people believe the lie that we must look young and therefore, chase the ‘fountain of youth’, and a lot of people are wealthy because so many believe this lie.

I had to ask myself: Have I bought into this lie? and if I am completely honest, the answer is ‘YES’. I sometimes put on anti-aging creams. I have seriously considered dying my grey hair at times. Yes, I did not like that I looked older. I thought looking young was better.

Success = money, status, or a satisfying career.

We live in a materialistic society. Society teaches that if we want to be happy, we must own a lot of expensive things like big screen TVs, a nice house, the latest iPhone, or a new car. To do this we need wealth. If we have wealth, we can buy the expensive items that give us status. And even more,  if we can become that six figure CEO, then we will have a satisfying career and we will have achieved the ultimate in success.

I had to ask myself: Have I bought into this lie? and if I am completely honest, the answer is ‘YES’. I thought I had to have the nice house, the nice vehicle, and a nice RV to be happy. When I had the wealth to buy these things, then I was successful, and I would have status. Yes, I believed the lie.

The video says society teaches, “You are not enough.” I believed it; I believed I was not enough. The reality is, “I am already enough.” I am perfect the way I am just as you are perfect the way you are. I did not treat myself like someone I loved. As the video says, “treat yourself like someone you loved.”

Even though I had heard the message, ‘you have to love yourself, before you can ever love someone else’, the fact is, I really didn’t understand what that meant.  How do you love yourself?  I didn’t know the answer to that question, until now.

It was the second profound thing that happened to me this week that enabled me to understand what ‘loving yourself’ means. This weekend, my wife and I attended a ‘Celebration of Life’ for a 15-year-old who literally didn’t wake up one morning. The young lady who sadly passed away in her sleep was a granddaughter of very good friends of ours, and her mother was someone I once had the privilege of teaching.

During her ‘Celebration of Life’, numerous friends, teachers, coaches, cousins, aunts, uncles, a godmother, and her parents spoke about the impact this teenager had on their lives. Over and over, I heard of how this young lady, who was 6 foot, 4 inches tall (193 cm), was confident, wise beyond her years and profoundly impacted everyone she met. Almost every tall teenager that I had ever taught was self-conscious about their height and lacked confidence. I kept thinking all during the celebration, I wish I could have known this young lady, and what an incredible young lady she must have been.  I kept wondering: What is it about this young lady, who sadly passed away much too soon, that made her so special? Why did she have such a profound effect on those who knew her?

Then it came to me; I knew the answer, or at least the only thing that made sense to me. This 15-year-old teen was able to deeply impact others because she fully loved herself.  She did not believe the lies society taught. She did not believe the lie, “You are not enough.” This young lady saw herself as “already enough;” “perfect the way she was,” and because she did, she saw everyone else she met as already enough, and perfect the way they were. She treated herself like someone she loved.  She did not judge herself and therefore, she did not judge others.  She did not compare herself to others, and she did not compare others. She completely loved and accepted herself—tallness and all—unconditionally. She fully loved herself, so she was able to fully love others. When you are able to fully love another, you profoundly affect them.

The article, Psychological Facts About Love, says,

Studies have shown that happiness is contagious.  It can be hard for people to walk away from someone who is happy, or not love someone who is happy simply because they are so enjoyable to be around.

Every speaker during this teen’s  ‘Celebration of Life’, commented on how she brought so much joy into their lives. She was able to do this because she fully loved herself, and when you love yourself, you are joyful.

It made sense to me now. I understood what loving myself really means. It means accepting that I am good enough the way I am; faults and all. It doesn’t matter that my hair is greying—who am I kidding—grey and I have a few wrinkles. I don’t have to look young. I don’t have to have material things to be happy. I am perfect the way I am, and it does not matter one iota what others think. Now I know what I must learn to do. This is what this special teen whom I never knew taught me, and for that I thank her.

Love You Forever

Europe, here we come!

I been thinking a lot about Robert Munsch’s book, Love You Forever. Robert Munsch is an author who was born in the U.S. but moved to Canada, so as far as Canadians are concerned, he is a fellow Canadian. One of his best-known books, Love You Forever, was published in 1986. It is a book that we used to read to our children. It’s a wonderful story about a mother’s—could just as easily be a father’s—love for their child. So why am I thinking about this book now? It’s because we are off to see our daughter in Ireland for the next four weeks which is why you likely won’t hear from me for a short while. My wife and I are so excited about seeing our baby girl.

The following is how Munsch’s story begins:

A mother held her new baby and very slowly rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And while she held him, she sang:

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.

My wife and I have three wonderful children. Our eldest is a school teacher. Our second born is getting her masters in Dublin, Ireland and our youngest, our son, is an environmental scientist. We haven’t seen our “Irish” daughter since Christmas. The thought of spending time with our baby girl reminds me of the book, Love You Forever.

Later in the book it reads:

That teenager grew. He grew and he grew and he grew. He grew until he was a grown-up man. He left home and got a house across town. But sometimes on dark nights the mother got into her car and drove across town.  If all the lights in her son’s house were out, she opened his bedroom window, crawled across the floor, and looked up over the side of his bed. If that great big man was really asleep she picked him up and rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And while she rocked him she sang:

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.

Now in our case, all three of our children are grown up and none of them live across town. Our eldest, the teacher, lives two hours away, our middle child is overseas, and our son lives four hours away.  So, needless to say, we don’t sneak over to our children’s homes and sing to them, as tempting as that may be. But we do spend time with them whenever we can.

erseasonallyear.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/will.jpg”> From: newindianexpress.com

[/caption]James E. Faust, an American religious leader, lawyer, and politician, once said, “The depth of the love of parents for their children cannot be measured. It is like no other relationship. It exceeds concern for life itself. The love of a parent for a child is continuous and transcends heartbreak and disappointment.”  This is so true.  The love for my children cannot be quantitatively measured.

Henry Ward Beecher, an American Protestant Clergyman in the 1800s, once said, “We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves.”  How true that is! It wasn’t until after my first child was born that I really truly appreciated my parent’s love for me. When I reflect on all the sacrifices they made for me and my siblings, I understand a parent’s love now. My dad always took time away from busy schedule at his business to teach us some new skill, such as welding. My mom comforted us through many illnesses and injuries, and always dropped what she was doing to do so.

Nicholas Sparks, an American author, once asked, “What it’s like to be a parent: It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but in exchange it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love.”   This is another truth!

When I was teaching, I encountered parents who expected their children to get honours (80% or higher) in all their courses or they would be disappointed. That is not love. That is approval.

What is love? Love needs to be unconditional to be real love. It is a love that doesn’t have to be earned. It is a love doesn’t have to be proven. When someone unconditionally loves you, they love you for who you are, no matter what you do or how you behave.

My wife and I have always just accepted our children for who they are, even though that was very difficult at times. Our middle child is a free spirit or loves adventure. That is why she is studying in Europe and travelling to various European countries when she is able. If we had not chosen to love her unconditionally, then we would have likely discouraged her from going overseas, and she likely would not have gone because of our communication to her that we disapproved. Instead, we supported her emotionally, financially and spiritually, and because of that we a jetting off to Ireland in a few hours.

The way I see it, loving your children unconditionally has its perks. Because one of our daughters is in Ireland, now we have an excuse—as if we need one—to visit Europe. Because we loved our son unconditionally, he doesn’t hesitate to give a helping hand when we ask him and likes to spend time with us. Because we loved our eldest daughter unconditionally, she graciously has a place for us to stay whenever we are in her city and comes to visit us regularly.

files.wordpress.com/2018/07/image.jpg”> From: http://lhyme.com

[/caption]I’m super excited about spending time with our daughter, but I’m also excited about spending time in Ireland.  Ireland is a glorious place with beautiful landscape, a rich history and wonderful culture. The people of Ireland have a reputation of being very hospitable and friendly, much like Canadians do. One thing that truly sets the culture in Ireland aside from other countries, is the pubs. While it is widely recognized that Ireland has a bit of a problem with the over-consumption of alcohol, pubs are quite different in Ireland when compared with North America. In North America, a pub–more commonly known as a bar– is simply a place to drink. In Ireland, however, it is a meeting place. I look forward to meeting people in the Irish pubs and enjoying a cold beer. I’m sure I’ll have some stories to blog about when I return to Canada.

I’ll sign off with an Irish drinking toast

May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.

Christmas Controversies 3.0

A commentary on the Christmas controversies of 2017

I realize it has been a while since I’ve published a post and I’ll tell you more about that in another post, but the Christmas season is fast approaching so it seems only appropriate that this post be about Christmas. Every year at this time of year, I am curious about what controversies will erupt regarding Christmas. I’ve learned this year, like previous years, there are many.

In October, while speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., Donald Trump claimed that political correctness has gotten in the way of celebrating the holiday. He told the crowd that “we’re saying Merry Christmas again” now that he’s president. At the Christian public policy conference, he said “We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word Christmas because it’s not politically correct.”  (see Trump: ‘We’re saying merry Christmas again’). I can’t say as I’ve experienced that as most people still say “Merry Christmas” in my community.

Every year we hear about this storm.  Essentially, the issue is about political correctness and whether people should say to one another Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. To me there is nothing to debate. Just let common sense prevail, but it seems common sense is not so common. It is really about basic etiquette. If you know someone is a Christian who is celebrating Christmas you should say to them ‘Merry Christmas.’ Likewise, say ‘Happy Hanukkah’ to a person you know is Jewish. Similarly, say a happy Diwali to your Hindu friends. Diwali is the autumn Hindu festival of lights celebrated every year.  During the month of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month, say “Ramadan Mubarak” which means “Happy Ramadan”. If you don’t know a person’s faith, say what feels right; either Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. Being that Canada (and the U.S.) is primarily a Christian country, no one should be offended. If I were in Israel, I would not be offended if someone wished me a “Happy Hanukkah”. Why would a non-Christian be offended when being wished a Merry Christmas in a Christian country?

In fact, The Guardian’s article, Don’t cancel Christmas on behalf of Muslims like me – I love it by Remona Aly, a Muslim, says, “Trying to avoid offending the sensibilities of other religions by watering down Christmas traditions merely fuels the myths of Islamic intolerance.”  The article also says, “there are non-Christians who won’t feel comfortable with saying, “Happy Christmas”, or with being in a nativity play, and that’s totally fair enough and up to them. They shouldn’t be treated like weirdos, nor should they be labelled with that grating word, “intolerant”. So there you have it. I doubt a non-Christian would be offended in a Christian country that celebrates Christian festivals. Why would they?

ABC News article, Upside down Christmas tree trend sparks controversy online, describes a trend whereby Christmas trees are literally turned upside down and decorated. So why would this be controversial? It seems some on social media say this fad is disrespectful to Christmas traditions. Well, traditions can and do change. Now, to be honest, I don’t believe this fad will catch on, but if someone thinks it is cool, then why knock it. Everyone is free to celebrate how they wish so long as it is not injuring someone else.

I’m curious. Where did this idea of decorating a tree for Christmas come from? No one can say for certain, but Country Living’s article, Where Did the Tradition of the Christmas Tree Come From?, says in 1771 “while Christmas trees were appearing in Germany years earlier, the trend really caught on after writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited Strasbourg, near the German border, and included the concept in his novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther”. That same article says that the 1820s was the first record of German settlers in Pennsylvania decorating evergreen trees in America.  It is interesting to note that as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.

According to History.com,

“The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colours and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition”.

Now I say to you, traditions regarding the decorating of the Christmas tree have evolved over the years, and they continue to today. No reason to get offended, folks!

Now for the final controversy that I’ll address. It seems for three years in a row now, Starbucks has been immersed in a Christmas controversy over its Holiday cups. This year is no different. According to the New York Times article, Starbucks Is Criticized for Its Holiday Cups. Yes, Again, some people feel that Starbucks is promoting homosexuality.  The interlinked hands on the 2017 Starbucks holiday cups have some suggesting a “gay agenda.” Are people just looking for something to attack Starbucks about?

On November 1st the Holiday cup was introduced with an online video. It featured a diverse cast of Starbucks customers, including a pair of cartoon women who were shown holding hands. The nature of cartoon women’s relationship was not specified, but some viewers saw them as a sign of inclusion of gay and transgender customers. My reaction to that is gay and transgender customers should be included. Why would a business exclude a potential customer? More importantly, I would like to remind people what Christmas is about.

I think the late Dale Evans. an actress and singer, said it best when she said, “Christmas, my child, is love in action” or the late Bob Hope, an actor, comedian and singer, who said, “My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others”.  Christmas is the time Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is the same child that grew up to give a new commandment, according to Christian scripture. In the Book of John, chapter 15, verse 12, Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another”. He didn’t say love only those you approve of. In fact, in Luke 6.27 Jesus says, “But I say to you, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” Jesus’ message was to love everyone. No exceptions!

Since Christmas is a Christian holiday, I’ll define love using Christian scripture. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, it says, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. This says love is kind and love does not insist on its own way. It seems to me excluding gay and transgender people stems from arrogance and insisting on its own way.  This is not love; in essence, going against the spirit of Christmas.

Dr, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, once said,

“There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt…”

If this is true, why do people fear the LTGB community? It is time to stop fearing one another and get back to the true meaning of Christmas; a message of love, acceptance, and inclusion. Perhaps this is what Starbucks is endeavouring to tell the world; that Christmas is about loving and accepting one another.

A Message to My Children

A Dad’s advice to his children.

If you were to give your children advice, what would it be? In my last post (Artists May Have the Answer) I mentioned that my wife and I attended a Chris de Burgh concert. At that concert, Chris de Burgh sang one of his newer songs called ‘Go Where Your Heart Believes’, a song I had never heard before; a song from his album “Moonfleet and Other Stories” released in January of 2011. If you’ve never heard the song, here it is.

This song helped me answer that question. In September, I wrote a post (When the Nest Empties) about Empty Nest Syndrome where I admitted that I was afflicted with this syndrome when my middle daughter moved to Dublin, Ireland to attend Trinity College. This song helped me understand why our daughter needed to do what  she was doing.

Chris de Burgh’s song, ‘Go Where Your Heart Believes’ has put Empty Nest Syndrome–those feelings of loneliness or sadness after children grow up and leave home—into perspective for me. Henry Ward Beecher, a clergyman, once said, “We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves.” This is so true! Sometimes as parents, we love our children so much we don’t want to let them go. That seemed to hold true for me.

Actor and producer, Peter Krause, says, “Parenthood…It’s about guiding the next generation, and forgiving the last”.  My wife and I have guided our children as best we knew how, just as our parents did. Yes, we’ve made mistakes as our parents did, but we have to trust that our guidance has enabled our children to be independent, strong, brave, and productive citizens. Chris de Burgh’s song ‘Go Where Your Heart Believes’ expressed for me the message I want to deliver to my children.

The lyrics say, “I am old but there’s a wisdom that comes with years. You are young and it’s so easy when you have no fears.”  I learned much wisdom throughout my years and I continue to do so, but I’ve also learned that I am hanging onto many fears which I acquired from my life experiences. I am now working to release those fears as they no longer serve me. You, my children, are just beginning your life journey, so live it without fear. What is fear anyway? It is False Emotion Appearing (as) Real.

Now don’t get me wrong. Fear serves a purpose. Psychology Today says,

“Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them”.

As it says in Psychology Today, fear protects us from legitimate threats. These are healthy fears. These fears protect us from life and death situations. The fears that I am referring to are “false emotion appearing as real.” As it says in Psychology Today, we “fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell.”  Those are the ones we need to dispose of. It is these fears that I am working on releasing now that I have the time to do so. These are fears like the fear of darkness, spiders, dogs, flying in an airplane, and such things as these; irrational fears.

Frank Sant’Agata says, “Love and fear are the only emotions we as human entities are able to express. All the others are just sub-categorical emotions. For example, on love’s side there is joy, peacefulness, happiness, forgiveness, and a host of others. On the other hand, fear reflects: hate, depression, guilt, inadequacy, discontentment, prejudice, anger, attack, and so on”.  Even the Christian Scriptures it is written, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). So, my advice to you, express love and not fear. Avoid those irrational fears.

The lyrics say, “Go, go where your heart believes, your memories are waiting, It’s the only way to find out who you are.”  So my advice to you is follow your dreams, your passions, your desires without fear! I truly wish I had done this more in my youth, but I held back because of irrational fears. I know many people who are afraid to travel to another country because of what they hear from the news media, mainly terrorism. Then there are those who fear flying likely because a bad experience or what they’ve heard on the news or tell themselves. These fears are “false emotion appearing as real.”  In an article called, Heart is more than a pump, it talks about a new branch of science called, Neurocardiology and studies in this field indicate there is constant communication between the heart and the brain. These scientific studies are showing that the heart may play a significant role in the way we experience emotions and make decisions. Maybe love is literally connected to the heart. Perhaps this is why the heart is a symbol of romantic love and a “wounded heart” means love sickness. It may also be why we have expressions like, “break my heart” (sadness due to breakup) or “have a heart” (show compassion) or “with all one’s heart” (deepest feeling). So, my advice to you is follow your heart. It is where your passions and desires are.

The lyrics say, “In this life, there is a road that you must follow, to the left or the right. One is wide but the other is hard and narrow. Take this one, and you can call it your own”. We can take the easy, safe road or we can take the tough road. I know I often took the safe road because of irrational fears. Looking back, I wish now I took the “harder” roads. Perhaps I would have taken that trip to Europe sooner. Perhaps I would have seriously considered teaching a year or two in another country, but I didn’t because I feared the amount of work involved and being far from home. So, my advice is to don’t always take the easy route!

The lyrics say, “There will be so many voices trying to turn you round, take a moment just to listen, then carry on”. Here is the most important message in the song. Stop believing what others say. It is fine to listen and consider what they are saying, but when deciding, follow your heart! I wish I had. I made the mistake of believing what others told me. My dad used to say, “If you have a job, hang on to it.” For him, a job pays the bills and to be fair, he lived through the Great Depression as a child and saw his dad–your great grandfather–struggle to feed the family. I listened to him and consequently, I went through periods of being discontented in my career.  In hindsight, I should have followed my heart.

The lyrics say, “There will be times when you’re lost and lonely, and you will have no-one beside you. And that is when you’ll find the hidden one inside, who will help you through.” There certainly will be times when you feel all alone and unsupported. These are the times when you need to trust your intuition; that knowing or understanding something without reasoning or proof. Trust that that is when the Universe, God, your angels, your guides are directing you. They are always with you. Most of the time we discredit our intuition with reasoning; telling ourselves it was our imagination. Trust it!

So, that is my message to you my three perfect children. It is a message not only for my children, but for all young people who are open to the message. Follow your heart without fear! Listen to others and decide with discernment what is best for you. Only you know what is best for you. Discover who you are. Better yet, decide who you are and be that person. And whatever you do, don’t fall victim to your fears!